Thursday, 30 June 2011

Day 55, 29th June

Another lovely day in Britain. It was so sunny in the morning that I was actually really warm in the tent at 6.15 in the morning when I woke up about 30 seconds before the alarm rang. I took a while getting up, not that I wasn't fit or the weather wasn't good enough to get going, but I continued to read a book – Midnight Sun (for the second time) – while I ate my dry muesli (very tasty!) and got so engrossed that I couldn't put it down for a while. But it did not matter. That way the ponies could rest and eat more and it was not quite so important to set off early as we knew where we were going in the evening.
We crossed known paths twice during the day. Interestingly, when we first got to the known part, Artax, recognising it immediately, wanted to go back north, which would have taken us in a little circle back to Airton where we had spent the last night. Yes, they had liked it there and had not been at all motivated to come to me or follow me when it was time to get them ready. After a few miles on the known road, we sent in a different direction again, which would keep us further away from large roads than on the way up and instead go through the Dales in more wild country.
I met two men along the way, one of whom said his son was a photographer for the local paper in Craven, so he said he'd call him to tell him about us. He took the phone from his pocked to dial, but it rang his end first with his son calling him. He told him about us and it turned out he already had my number from when the other gentleman had called the paper the day before. This time he did get in touch with me and we met in a village along the way to take some photos. I hope I can get some of them, they are surely really good.
Maggie, as always when she's feeling warm, had a couple of baths again. When the river – or whichever hole with water – isn't deep enough, to get quite wet, she always has a lie down for a proper cool off and is then ready to be on her way again a very short time later.

The second time we came along a known way was at the entrance to the property where we stayed. We had come to it from the other direction, so the horses had no idea until we got to the turnoff, at which point they looked and turned into it as if it were the most normal thing to do, like going home to their own stable. It's quite amazing how they know, or at least Artax. It is hard to tell with the little ones as they are somehow like passengers in a car and play a more passive role when it comes to directions, whereas Artax is always the leader, and a very observant one. We found a warm welcome again and the ponies were happy on their field that even had more grass than the time before.

Day 54, 28th June

I woke up at my usual six o'clock feeling sick again for the first time in days. Oh no, it wasn't the water from the auction, was it? But I seemed to be fine again after some of my muesli, so maybe it was just from hunger? Hmmm, whatever, so long as it went away. As Dino had had a very slight lump on his back the evening before, I decided that he would have the day off and that Artax would take the luggage again while Dino got just Artax's saddle with his small front pack bags and the lightweight rugs. The only snag about having Artax take the packsaddle is that I have to walk all day and not just half like I usually do. But it promised to be a relatively flat day, so no worries, I shouldn't be a wimp. We set off at half past nine on lovely quiet back roads heading for Settle. In one of the first houses outside the town, a man was extremely happy to see us as he had seen us on the way up together with his granddaughter. He gave all the pets a treat and a donation for the charities and then called the local paper, but they did not seem to be so very interested in the story as they never called me.

It was fascinating in to places where we came across roads we had already been alongon the way north. The first time it was just for a couple of hundred metres until we took another lane again. As soon as we were on the known road, Artax stopped, had a little look around and then continued with increased energy. The second time it was even clearer; we were in the town of Settle and Artax repeated the stopping and looking at precisely the place where our new and old paths crossed. Then, apart from on a long stretch of hill, as we headed the same way to Airton as we had come over three weeks ago, Artax spent just about the whole time pulling me, wanting to go faster and to arrive at where he was sure would be our destination for the day.


As it turned out, we stayed at the same place, but this time invited by the son, who had been on holiday when we passed before. We met him along the way just before the village and he offered us a field. I said thank you, but we were hoping to go where we had been before, and then we found out that they were the the same place. The ponies got the field next to the one they had been on before and we did not have to go quite as far around the town, but were already at our destination as soon as we entered the village, which was lovely with the condition my feet and general energy levels were in. I got a wonderful shower in the house in the evening and could charge up the virtually empty laptop – thank you!

Day 53, 27th June

I woke up at my usual six o'clock to a lovely day that promised to be very hot. The forecast had spoken of a heat wave with temperatures around thirty degrees. I packed up the tent, put all the boots on and got the big ones ready as Dazzy was still free, as usual. It was quite a cute sight when he decided to have a lie down in all his boots right next to the luggage, as if he were looking after it. Or he were the guard asleep on duty.

We went through beautiful countryside to Kirkby Lonsdale where I was happy to find a little Spar shop to fill up on bread and apples. There was just one sign post near the shop – and actually in a very practical place so as not to let the horses disturb the passing traffic – so I tied the team to it while I went inside to get what we needed. When I came out, the ponies and Maggie were totally surrounded by people who all looked very interested and many of them took photos. I was of course pleased to tell them about what we were doing and they all gave some donations to the charities and the lady from the Spar even came out and gave me some apples and carrots for the ponies, which made them very happy.
We rode on through the town and out the other side crossing the main A road in order to go on a quieter one. It actually was quite quiet, though with lots of bends and could have been potentially unsafe. A man in his car who usually rode a motorcycle stopped to warn me about it, telling me that bikes sped around the bends extremely fast and he hoped we would survive it. He actually passed us again from the other direction a few miles further on, just before the left the road, and was utterly amazed that we were still alive, he even said: “So you've made it; I didn't think you would!” Dear, one must think more positively!
After that we were on small lanes again and decided to come off our return route by a mile to stay at the auction grounds in High Bentham again, where we had stayed on the way north. It was a good place with good grass and a stream running along the edge, so had everything we needed. I even found a hose belonging to the auction where I could fill up my bottles with tap water rather than using the filter bottles like the last time we had been there. It tastes just that tiny bit better out of the tap and doesn't have the slight taste of iodene which the filtered water has.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Days 50 - 52

Day 50, 24th June

We set off at 9.30 after I had had breakfast and waited for a short shower to stop. It was a quite nice day; warm when I walked, a little cool when I rode, but at least dry. The scenery was also very nice as we went into the Eden Valley with the Pennines on the left and the Lake District on the right, we had some lovely views and quiet roads with very few cars.

Just before Penrith a lady came out to see us as we went by, so I asked whether there was a field and we could stay the night. The horses got the field, Maggie and I slept in the stable where they even brought us a heat lamp to keep cosy and the lady got some veggie burgers specially for me for dinner – thank you! :o)))

What a night! The weather forecast for the night was very bad, so I fell for the idea of sleeping in the comfortable looking stable. It was clean, they kindly even put some new sawdust and a large sheet on the ground and I thought it looked extremely cosy with my mat and sleeping bag on top as well as a heat lamp to go with it that would keep us nice and warm.

I spent a while writing the blog and did not think much of the few very little (1-2mm) small creepy crawlies that walked across my computer screen while I was at it. Little later, I went to sleep feeling warm and comfortable. Then... a few hours later, I woke up feeling all itchy! What was it? Maybe the slight breeze making my hair move? Hmmm, strange... but it itched so much... I hid inside the sleeping bag in case it was the breeze, but it wasn't much better... I turned round to the other end of the bed... no better... so I lay there wide awake at two o'clock in the morning and spent the rest of the night very restlessly. When I found it was still raining at six o'clock when the alarm rang, I stayed in bed a little longer reading and having breakfast, and that was when I noticed all these little insects crawling all around... grrrr, yuck! At least, knowing what it was, rubbing all my skin and head stopped the itching quickly.

That was my lesson – I will never again sleep anywhere outside a house without being in my tent!

After waiting for the rain to be only a slight drizzle, we managed to set off at just before ten o'clock in just the light rain gear. Then, despite the bad forecast, it stopped raining after a short time and we had a lovely day with the Lake District on our right and the Pennines on our left and some very nice views. Interestingly, we were in the sun all day while the clouds were being blown against the Pennines – how lucky that we were not on the still unfinished northern part of the Pennine Bridleway.

At just after four o'clock, we came down into the village of Crosby Ravenworth where a gentleman, who had just passed us further up the road, was waiting to speak to us. He told me it would be about seven miles to the next civilisation if we continued along our way as we would be out in the open fells. With a look up at the skies that threatened to make us very wet in the near future, we decided to stay somewhere in the village. The gentleman suggested to ask a farmer who we could see a little way up the road or, alternatively to ask at another farm and B&B that was in the village. We decided to ask there and he showed us where it was and went in to ask for us.

They were extremely helpful; the ponies got a lovely field with lots of lush grass – actually it was partly a football field, but the grass was so short in that part that the ponies probably would not have much reason to stay there. Actually the field was apparently always used when the travellers came through to go to Appleby, so mine were not the first horses there. I was even offered to sleep in the house, had a really long bath to get clean right through – what relaxation lying in the bath reading a book on my Kindle – and a tasty meal along with lots of nice conversation with the family. Thank you, it was lovely!


Day 52, 26th June

That was interesting waking up... it felt like no more than five minutes after going to sleep, but it was seven and a half hours, my Kindle was lying half under me and the bedside light was still on. I couldn't even remember having read anything in the evening; must have been unconscious within seconds. It must have been necessary after not sleeping well two nights in a row.
After the breakfast I was invited in to – thank you! - we set off at ten o'clock in order to head further southwards. It was a lovely day – warm, sunny, just a few clouds that did not look very menacing at all. I could hang my washing to Dino's saddle without a problem and it dried in no time.

We went up the hill through/across the fell from Crosby and then down into a valley by a good (despite the number of gates) bridleway – wow! Then we met our old friend the M6 motorway again, crossed it, lost it out of sight for a little while, went next to it, under it and then on a lovely little road in the hills beside it again, but far enough away so that we could hardly hear it. Well, I had switched the MP3 player on when we first started going along it, so kept the noise out a bit anyway.

At just after five o'clock, we found a farm where the ponies could have a lovely field to share with 15 lambs, the friendly neighbour came over to meet us and I got a shower and some dinner – with strawberries :o))) for pudding!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Days 46 - 49

Day 46, 20th June

Rest.
Emma, the owner of the place we were at, had said we could stay as long as we wanted, so I took her up on it as the forecast was not at all good – though it turned out to be a really nice morning and half the afternoon was also sunny. The ponies had the morning out and came in in the afternoon when it first started to rain. I got a shower and Emma was so kind as to wash my clothes. Thank you!


Day 47, 21st June
We set off again in the morning with me in freshly washed clothes that were still warm from the tumble dryer – nice!

It was a nice day, the weather held out well and we got to Annan in the evening having done the most miles in a day until then – 29 of them. I had started to look out for stables several miles earlier, but either found nothing where I wanted to ask or, at one place, there was nobody in. Then, as we continued along the road, a car pulled in and a lady in horse gear asked what we were doing, so I asked her whether she knew of a place to stay and was referred to a friend of hers in Annan. He was even so helpful as to drive out towards us and escorted us all the way through the town by car so that we would find the place. In the meantime, the girl we had first met, offered me to come to her house and sleep in a real bed, which I – and Maggie – gladly accepted.

Day 48, 22nd June
Having stayed at a different place, we were a little later in the morning, but it did not really matter. While I was getting the ponies ready, the owner of the place I stayed at asked whether he should phone the local newspaper and they sent a reporter out to interview me just before we set off. It was just a few questions and some photos, so I am interested to see the paper when it comes out.

We headed for north of Carlisle and went through Gretna again. The morning started off a lot better than expected with beautiful sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky. Then it rained while I had got the horses ready, but cleared up again and stayed nice for a couple of hours, only to then pour down just before we got to Gretna. I had not even believed it would be that much and only put on my raincape instead of using the full compliment of trousers, jacket and cape and the raincoat on Maggie as well. And it just got worse and worse. Finally, in the town, I found a tree that promised to at least keep a tiny bit of the rain off so I put on all the other rain clothes without ever removing the cape – not easy, but possible.

Just as we were then going to turn off and go to the same place as on the way to Scotland on the other side of the motorway – and wait under the bridge first for the rain to stop – we were stopped by a lady who had a stable nearby. She told us how to get there and we were only too happy arrive and find the horses got a field, stables if they wanted, a feed in the morning, a place to dry the stuff and a meal, a shower and the cravan to sleep in at night – it was lovely. I could even have used the sauna, but that just seemed like too much luxury. :o)
Day 49, 23rd June

With the rain still falling on the caravan after my normal get up time, I stayed lying in bed snoozing for a while longer and contemplated whether to take my host up on her offer of another day. But finally the sun came out and I decided that if I were going to be such a wimp every time it rained, we would never get home again.
We left at about 11 and went back to our route, which was to take us across the motorway, along a little bit of Hadrian's Wall – like Offa's Dyke, where is it?? - round Carlisle airport, where my brother works in the tower and he could watch us going 2/3 of the way round the airport.
It was not easy to find a place to stay in the evening and a couple of times the problem seems to have been the Royal Highland Show. I asked at one stable, but the lady was only equipped for Shetland ponies and had 6 stallions in the fields. She sent me to another stable, but there was nobody in and nobody at the farm we passed afterwards either. I asked another lady, but she had her stables full of sheep and the fields were under water. Then I asked some other people, but their horses were also in the stables and the fields resembled ponds... but they called another lady, who had her fields higher up and we could spend the night at her place with the ponies on the field and Maggie and myself sleeping in the dry.

Bridleways

If anybody has been wondering why we tend to spend all our time on little roads instead of bridleways, things like we see in this first picture are the reason why.

Don't get me wrong, I used to ride on muddy woodland paths a lot and loved them - that was until the planners started moaning and saying that we horsie people were destroying the paths and started closing them for us. So maybe I am just out of it after not being able to use them for years, but wouldn't you expect something better on seeing an official sign saying "Public bridleway"?
In my experience "Bridleway" is often just another word for "drown in the mud", "blocked off", "overgrown" or "just plain annoying with so many gates that it's hardly worth riding along it", so I tend to avoid them.

And this is what the horses and Maggie looked like after the experience - pretty, aren't they?
Pity I don't have a pic of myself - I walked until that muddy bit, then a couple of feet before the worst bit, I noticed that one of Dazzy's back boots was off and hanging round his leg by the gaiter and the other one had completely disappeared! Damn!!! In their defence, Dazzy has such small hooves that the back boots are at least a size too big, but unfortunately they are the smallest that Easyboots make. So there was me trapsing around in deep deep mud retrieving the lost boot, which was deep in the mud/water with just the tip of the gaiter not sunk. Thank goodness, or I would never have found it! And then, to top it, Dazzy gave me a little nudge and I tripped off the middle of the path and landed in the deep water with one foot - deeper than the top of my hiking boot - yuck!
Did I mention I had some washing on the top of Dino's saddle to dry off? That was almost ready for another wash after the "bridleway". Not to forget my jeans that had so kindly been washed for me just a couple of days before. Great!

Anyway, it was so ridiculous that I at least couldn't stop laughing between the words I won't repeat here.

So that's why we prefer to stay on little roads even if the bridleway may sometimes cut off half a mile - in this specific case we would have been a good bit faster on the road.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Days 40 - 45

(Sorry about the lack of photos for various reasons: rain, relatively dull scenery, even more rain, forgetfulness and still more rain.)

Day 40, 14th June

A boring day; I slept an hour longer than usual and took it very easy in the morning with packing up because we were going to a place where I knew somebody, it was only just over 30km and she was not going to be in till at least six o'clock.

The farmer came round quickly in the morning to see that we were all okay and showed me how to get clean tap water out of the pipe for the cattle. It was easier than using the filter bottle and quicker to drink, though I did find through the see-through bottle later in the day that there seemed to be algae in the water – whatever, my stomach is getting tougher by the day.

We had to continue parallel to the motorway for a few miles and then went through Gretna before heading out into the countryside. Everything was flat, we would have had a nice, though slightly hazy view of the Lake District, but it was not worth a photo as there was always a power line in the way. We even had a beautiful scenic view of a half dismantled nuclear power station that we went round. The ground did not seem to glow, but then it was mid afternoon as we went by, so who knows what happens at night.

Despite taking our time, we arrived at just after five, but were luckily not the first. The horses got a little grassy paddock while Maggie and I got a mobile home with a cosy bed for the night and I enjoyed the few hours of sleep that were left after lots of chatting and a good meal.

I got a lot of information on routes in Scotland – and came away quite demotivated about the whole trip. Basically, in the northern part, it boils down to A roads or offroad tracks that may be only designed for hikers and impassable for horses due to width, rocks, styles or locked gates and other places that may be fine to go along for many many miles until you get to a locked gate, which you have to arrange to have opened in advace, and then, in other places tracks are unsuitable for horses as they are dangerously boggy – and possibly more so as Scotland had had the wettest May for many years.

Day 41, 15th June

And another boring day. After a short night, I allowed myself to sleep in till 6.30, quickly put the new routes I had planned out the night before onto the GPS and got ready. It was raining, but at least the forecast for the next two days looked quite promising – though terrible for the ones that followed.

We left at just after nine and went through mostly flat countryside along little roads between fields, saw a couple of small villages, went through Dumfries, which was fun like most towns and round a farm where the ponies could stay on a lovely large field for the night while I put the tent in a perfect spot quite high up and could overlook everything from there.

People, though said to be the most friendly in Scotland, were somewhat more reserved, it seemed. I had cards with information about what we were doing printed before leaving and had handed out five to ten every day to people we had met along the way during the first part of the trip. But in the first few days of Scotland, I needed close to none. Nobody stopped to chat like they had done in Wales and England, some people at least waved out of their cars, but lots looked unfriendly as if we did not belong on their road. It was strange. People we spoke to for any reason were very friendly, but they were not as open as the rest.


Day 42, 16th June

Getting better boredomwise. There were some hills, less power cables, very few villages, lots of friendly people. Something had suddenly changed after passing Dumfries.

We left the friendly farmers' field at about half past nine, I filled my water bottles at the yard and set off after a nice chat. He was about to wash and prepare one of his Highland Cattle for the Highland Show, which was soon to commence, so had a busy morning.

Along the way, a man stopped us, who had a bag of carrots for the ponies and gave me another hand full of doggie treats for Maggie – yum!
On entering Castle Douglas, I was delighted to find a Tesco, though not at the best time as we had done all our shopping just a few days before, but it was lovely to be able to get the essentials there, too. I found a tree in a very practical place outside where the team could wait and graze a bit while I went inside. People were very friendly and a few of them came over to give me a donation before they finished their shopping.

Unlike in many other parts, especially in Wales, the farms we passed were often enormous and few and far between. The farmers were getting in silage and, despite having passed 30km, I just could not really see anywhere directly along our road where I felt like asking whether we could stay.

Finally we arrived in Twynholm, where David Coulthard's father lives and he has a museum with all his cars, and really needed to stop. It was getting late and we had done 42km, so definitely plenty for the day. We went past a field at the start off the village, but it was not clear who it would belong to, then there was a smallholding with lots of sheep, so I was a little apprehensive about asking because the grass was not very long. What decided it was then the fact of the cattle grid across what seemed to be the only entrance, wo we went on down the lane to the next big farm, where we were told they had lots of cattle movements and were about to make silage, so there was unfortunately nothing free. He did, however call his neighbour further down the lane, but he didn't have anything either. The only field he had was currently occupied by donkeys. He sent us up to the village again where there was apparently somebody with lots of smaller bits of land. I never found just who he meant, but a neighbour came out and told us to ask at the sheep place as they also had the field on the other side of their house – one with long grass and only two rams.

I had to tie the ponies to a sign post along the road while I went up the drive to ask as the cattle grid was of course in the way and unfortunately got a “no” because they had had bad experience with horses and their sheep in the past. But the lady did go to ask her husband, who thankfully said “yes”, so we had at long last finally found a good place for the night. I put the tent up in the corner with a wall on one side and a hedge on the other and felt quite pleased with myself, and was then invited in for tea and a bite to eat. I shocked the poor lady by being veggie, but was lucky and still got some nice food and a good cup of tea without milk, of course.

The next morning I woke up to two things: feeling as if I would be sick any moment – though I never actually was sick – and lots and lots of rain. I stayed put reading Sense and Sensibility and dozing in turn till around midday, the gentleman whose place I was at came round onto the field with the Landrover to pick us up and take us to the nice cosy house and feed us. How very kind! So I spent the rest of the day in their house, got lunch and tea and cups of tea and nice conversation.

At the end of the day, I still planned to leave in the morning, but the weather forecast looked horrible and we were all doubtful, so nobody looked very surprised when I went round to the house at 9ish and was then invited to share breakfast and the rest of the day with them. Oh, and a SHOWER (!!!), which had by then become quite urgent, and allowed me to wash the most important clothes at the same time, so I came away not at all smelly any more... niiiiice!

My stomach played up all the time, but we did manage to leave the next morning, on day 45 of the trip with the weather looking better than the forecast had said and my stomach somewhat better.



Day 45, 19th June

With a horrible weather forecast for many days to come, I could not muster the motivation to do the tiny extra loop round the Galloway Forrest Park, that I had decided to do before heading home. Scenery is invariably not so special in the rain and cold and accommodation might be more difficult to find there, so we did a 180 degree turn and went straight back the way we had come the day before.

The ponies were motivated and walked faster than often, though not to their “at home” standards when they know we are heading for home, so I spent all day wondering whether they had really tagged on or whether it was just that they were well rested after two days off. They clearly knew the route backwards, but it did not become evident that it was totally clear to them until we turned off to go to our overnight accommodation and Artax immediately reduced his speed to half of what it had been before.

We were stopped by the police in Castle Douglas! We had just been followed and overtaken by one police car and then, two minutes later, another overtook. I wondered what on earth they could be up to on a quiet Sunday afternoon and then began to have all sorts off thoughts along the lines of “Oh no, what do they want?/I'm not doing anything wrong./They are not going to find a fault in 4 animals with one person and none with a bit, are they?/...” when it became evident that they were more on a social visit. Their car wasn't parked as they would probably on a “normal” visit, they didn't get out together and looked just too friendly.

The lady, as it turned out, lived a few miles along the road we were going to take and she had a field of her own and a friend with lots more where we would be able to spend the night. It was a perfect place for us and only about half a mile off the route, so we were very happy to take up the offer.

The ponies got a field for as long as they wanted and spent the night in a dry barn where I also put the tent to let things really dry off. Even if it was going to rain in the morning, it would be a lot better to start it dry!

Day 39, 13th June

It started quite early and also finished quite early despite leaving a little late – not until 11 – with the ponies.

I got up at 6.30 at my brother's house to have a shower and set off clean after our three days' break. There was more packing to do than expected, which took a while, but luckily I had done the repair jobs the day before. Dazzy, who has a habit of not lifting his hind hooves up properly had worn off a lot of the clip to tighten them and they had to be replaced. I got out of putting all new wires on and instead just clipped off the existing ones and made them a little shorter, which would be better for Dazzy's small hooves anyway.

We got to the stable at 9.30 and I had the ponies ready and packed at eleven when we said our goodbyes and thank yous and went on our way. We started off on quite main roads, first through Dalston, then on to Carlisle and through the centre as there is really only one way to get across the river and that is through the centre.
Amazingly, when we stopped off just quickly on the lawn at the castle to take some photos, a lady, who worked there, came out asking whether we had permission from the MOD to be there. It was hard to believe, I waid I was just going and that was alright, but why on earth would we need permission from the MOD to stand on a public lawn by a monument? Gosh, they must be worried about security.

Having cleared the centre, and the MOD, we went out onto smaller roads again, though found ourselves on a lorry highway that went past the rubbish dump and a big wood yard and it was far from quiet for a couple of miles at least. Afterwards, we went along quiet roads and then along a small road that ran parallel to the M6 northwards, where we met a farmer after just a short way who offered us the use of his field for the night without even being asked. It was a bit early and we had only done 23km, but we decided to stop anyway and start off early in the morning.
We all shared the field with some cows and calves and all looked happy as also the weather got better and better.

P.S. As always, please forgive the errors - written in haste and on limited battery :o)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Day 35, 9th June

It was going to be a long day so I set the alarm for 5.30 in order to set off in good time in the morning... and it was raining... a lot. In the end, I got out of the tent at just before seven and packed up as quickly as possible while it still rained a little bit off and on, but generally looked as if it might be a more cheerful day.

We made it off at nine o'clock, went back into the outskirts of Keswick and headed over to the A66 leading north and stayed parallel to it on the small roads most of the day.

In a way it was sad to leave the Lake District so suddenly. The scenery was wonderful and the weather was even nice. The Cumbria Way did continue further north as a bridleway and looked less extreme, but I could not bring myself to try it with the ponies and was somewhat looking forward to getting to my brother's house near Carlisle and having the three days off that we had planned.

During a short time that we were going along the path next to the A66, a lady pulled up in her car and got out to give each pony a carrot and me some money for the charities – so nice of her and the ponies were very glad for the change in taste.

My brother and his wife caught up with us by following our route backwards at just before four o'clock and they also brought us all some treats; doggie treats, carrots for the horses and some very tasty oat cakes for me. Oh, the joy of eating something sweet... and to be able to do it knowing it would all be walked off again! :o) I got to stand on the scales the next morning and found I had lost a kilo per week on the way, so I suppose I have found the ideal diet. Forget all these complicated food changes and leaving out things you like, just go walkies all day long and it will happen automatically.

We could get rid of the luggage for the last six miles, which was a treat, especially for Dino, and did some trot whenever possible. After five weeks of nothing but a calm walk, they really seemed to enjoy it and found it refreshing.

The ponies immediately felt at home in their new place and surely enjoyed the rest – though when I went to see them the next day, they came to me immediately, followed me to the gate when I left and waited there for quite a while. Let nobody say my horses do not like travelling!

Day 34, 8th June

Wet, wet, wet!
It had been such a lovely afternoon and evening with not such a bad forecast as far as I remembered that I left the ponies without their rugs on for the night – not the nicest thing to do. It was warm and there was no wind, but it did start to rain in the early hours of the morning and was not just a little bit. I woke up just before the alarm rang at six o'clock to the sound of the rain and it became more rather than less, so I lay in bed reading a little more Jane Austen till it stopped at just after six and I jumped up all in a hurry to get ready before it might start again.

There were some National Trust toilets just round the corner, so they made for some almost civilised physical care in the morning, even with a mirror to plait my hair, which I normally just did by feeling. It was quite strange to see myself in a mirror again, something that did not happen particularly often. I had two colours in my face, extremely brown lower down where I spent all day exposed to the light and white where my cap always covered the skin. I should have gone without the cap every now and then, but that would only have been possible maybe on the day I washed my hair, but not otherwise. Also, the only hair style I could do on the way was a one sided plait as it was the easiest thing to do and kept it all under control; otherwise I would have ended up tearing out half the hair every day from brushing out the knots.
I had been invited in to have breakfast at the pub at 9 o'clock when they opened, but already had the ponies so far ready that their baggage could go on before half past eight, so I opted to miss breakfast in favour of an early start. It did not seem sensible to have the poor animals waiting around for half an hour till I got my breakfast and then leaving surely a whole hour later than we did.

The day started off with a little shock, first the rain started again with seemingly no intention of it being a short shower, then we went onto the bridleway straight behind the pub and almost immediately encountered rocks that had to be climbed. The ponies had no great problem with that, but Artax showed his dislike and had to be persuaded that we really meant to cross them. Afterwards it continued better, but I ended up walking very soon in order to open the gates more easily. We saw that some other people had wild camped in the same spot that we would have chosen had we not ended up on the field by the pub – it was a beautiful location with a crystal-clear stream running through the middle of the valley, very cute Lake District sheep all round and just about sufficient grass for horses to feel satisfied with.

As we almost got to the end of the valley, a young man who worked for the National Trust caught us up and told us a bit about the path – very steep and, though technically intended for horses, none ever went along it and it was not really especially fit for them. We soon saw why; We had to climb to the top of the mountain by the almost direct way, which was covered in rocks and stones that had been laid down obviously to make it easier for hikers. In addition, all the earth around was extremely wet and slippery from all the rain. Dazzy was of course off the lead and Dino was on the longest lead I could give him.
Besides Artax's clear trouble negotiating he mountain with his long and not especially sure legs, we had another problem – shoes. Dazzy wears the smallest size Easyboots make – one too big for him, so he had lost two boots in no time. I put them back on, but the next time one came off, gave up on the idea of wanting to keep the back ones on for the climb and put them in the saddle bags. Imagine all this on a zig-zagging path up the steep side of a mountain. Artax also had a little trouble – one of his back boots had only the top end of the clip left after a different rock climb in the Peak District and was not as tight as it could have been, so it came off a few times, too. On one occasion, while I was doing Artax's boot, Dino tried to stand on a bit of grass that would have seemed like a good place, but it was so extremely slippery from the rain that his legs just slipped away from under him and he went down on his side. But Dino, the little hero, just got up again – he had actually been well caught by his pannier – as if nothing had happened and waited patiently a little more on the path. We continued the climb. In various places there were streams crossing the paths where the planners had made a more than foot deep and half a foot wide hole for the water to flow through and these, again, caused Artax some trouble. The ponies just stepped over them, but Artax tried to step in them a couple of times and tripped often. I had never thought that mountain climbing would be something he would learn at the age of 19. He has always been a very good horse for riding, but sure-footedness has never been one of his strengths and he had not had to practise much for a long time.

We finally made it to the summit from where we would have had a beautiful view but for the low clouds. Now we had some bogs to deal with. The planners had laid a few stepping stones across them for hikers, but the horses had to go through them and were not very happy. Dino decided to leap one with all his baggage – quite impressive. A man having his brunch up the top said we had a steep way down to go, though I was less worried about it as another person had told us it was less steep than the way up – and so it was. There was more grass and a lot less rock. The National Trust people had done a lovely job of making a real little path in some places – with sheer drops in some of the hairpin bends – but the boys did it perfectly. The problem started with the path disappeared or was their building site and we had to take the direct way through the grass which the ponies, maybe excepting Dazzy just slid down with Dino going into Artax's backside while I held onto Artax's headcollar to support him. What a sight! Shortly after I looked more closely at Dino only to find his pack saddle was right on his shoulders! Oh no! We stopped off at the next more or less flat and just wide enough place so that I could correct things. Dazzy ate, Artax was clearly in no mood to go anywhere he did not really have to and stood still without being held – thank goodness! - and Dino was almost completely unsaddled and repacked in no time; this time with the back harness a lot tighter, which worked a treat, but somewhat damaged a couple of the holes in the harness.

We soon got down to the valley again, but still had a lot of small path with quite a lot of rocks to do. In one place with all rock, there was simply no space to get past an enormous rock by going along the path; probably not even Dazzy could have got past it well, but it was clearly impossible for the bit ones with luggage. We had to rethink and searched for another way – one would be to cross pure steep rock directly; not a chance. And the other was to cross an even steeper, but therefore smaller piece of rock, so we chose that as, even if they slipped on the rock, they would be braked by earth within two feet – it seemed like the safest option and down we went surprisingly well while I was especially proud of Dino for how well he managed everything, above all because he was just forced to follow with dead weight from the baggage and a lot less time to see the path ahead than the others had.
We finally made it to the end of the “bridleway” and went back onto the roads for the continuing journey to Keswick. It was a good experience going through the mountains, now we know we can do it, but it is not easy and I would not recommed that anybody take the Cumbria Way by horse unless they have a lot of experience and a good unshod horse to do it.

We found a place to stay near Keswick when I met a farmer as we came through a village in search of the farm that all the fields around had to belong to – apparently I wouldn't have been lucky as they were all quite spaced out with fields being used by many farmers from all around. We could use a freshly cut field where there was plenty of grass around all the sides and some poles in the middle of the field and I even got an invitation to dinner in the house, which was very welcome.

Maggie and I spent the night in our tent hoping for the rain to stop so that we could maybe pack up in the dry in the early morning.

Day 33, 7th June

A wonderful day again. Despite the bad weather forecast, it was dry all night and I woke up to a cloudy, but not hopeless day. After just 5 hours' sleep the night before and less than seven that night – thanks Jane Austen and your good books – it was a little difficult to get up and I set the alarm clock to snooze three times before surfacing.

Just as I had almost all on the ponies, it started to rain, so we ended up leaving with me in full rain gear and Maggie also in her coat. We still had about five miles to do along a windy road with a fair amount of traffic, coaches and lorries included, even though the road was barely wide enough in places, but they managed.

At the beginning of Hawkshead, we went past the primary school where I think the daughter of my last hosts went. I had said I might go past her school before she left in the morning, and so it was. All the children came rushing to the window to watch us go past. I hope she had a lot to talk about all day.

I had hoped to find a little shop in Hawkshead where I would be able to get some bread, but it got even better. We took the main little road through the centre of the village with all the shops and I was very pleased to find an outdoor shop as I had cleverly managed to break my water bladder the evening before by dropping it. It probably shouldn't have broken, but it sprang a leak in two places from the impact. I ended up getting an expensive bottle from Zigg, real Swiss made, apparently, and hoped it would last for all eternity at that price and I also took the opportunity to get a waterproof bag liner for the gadgets bag that I had been somewhat worried about if it were to rain heavily.
My little team also made it to Asia as a tourist from there took some photos of us as we went through the town. I could just imagine how she would go home and tell her family and friends all about how they still travel by horse as a common rule in Britain.

We got into some beautiful parts of the Lake District staying almost all the time on tiny roads and some bridleways. Soon we were to start going along the Cumbria Bridleway, which would take us high up into the mountains, so it was necessary to find a place to stay before starting along the path and we found a field belonging to a pub where they were happy to let us stay. The owner even came round later and invited me in to eat dinner and breakfast the next morning – how kind!

Day 32, 6th June

After a late night, I allowed myself to sleep half an hour longer in the morning and then got up to have breakfast – homemade bread rolls toasted – and get packed up to go. Despite the lie in and socialising in the morning, we still managed to get away before ten o'clock, quite amazing!

The day continued very well, we were on well-planned all small roads with hardly any traffic and entered the Lake District via Newby Bridge mid afternoon. There had already been some lovely views beforehand, but it was nice to actually be “inside”.
At just after five and a few miles from Hawkshead, we passed a farm and asked whether we could stay. They quickly said yes and got their pony in so that mine could use his field for the night.
They told me he should have had his hooves trimmed that morning, but the blacksmith had not turned up, so I was really pleased to be able to make myself and my tools useful by doing his hooves myself. Dan, the pony, looked a lot better afterwards and I suppose it was just bad luck to the unreliable blacksmith for not coming when he said he would.
We spent the night in the most beautiful field with a little stream running along the edge of it and some little slopes for the boys to graze on.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Up to day 31

Due to the late hour and the need for sleep, it is going to be a rather short entry again with more pictures than stories. I hope you like it anyway - or more? :o)

Maybe this is due to my bad research before setting off, but we came to the northern end of the Mary Townely Loop on the Pennine Bridleway, at which time it should have continued upwards, but it for some reason did not. There was a Bridleway with a different name and a couple of miles later I did see one sign with the acorn that had marked the Pennine Bridleway in the past, but it was not even clear which direction it was in. We followed the route for a while, but I became totally fed up with it when it eventually turned off right - away from where we should have been heading - and the map also did not show its continuation for long and especially not clearly.


Thus I ended up tying the ponies to the gate for a while as I got out the computer in order to plan the further route on small roads again. That started off fine, but a moment later, I got a message saying I had buy more credit for the dongle. No problem; I got out the credit card and clicked on "buy more credit". Finally managed to give all the details and then the website supposedly connected to the bank... and connected... and connected... to no avail... 15 minutes later it was still trying to connect, so I looked for the telephone number in order to call the company. It was an 0800, but I would have to pay as I was calling from a mobile. The apparently friendly man on the phone said he would call me back, but never did.

Somewhat frustrated, we went on with me doing real traditional map reading ont he GPS - who would have thought it possible?! We went through Haworth village, where the Brontes are from, did a little shopping in the next village and a little higher up the hill I decided I might get a slightly better connection to make that credit purchase and do my calculations. It worked and I had the route planned out and on the GPS in no more than 15 minutes, so we could set off again... after this little sight:

Now on our normal favourite small roads again, we are going to get to the Lake District tomorrow and are staying at a wonderful place again today. I have had a shower and am sleeping in a bed for the first time in about three weeks - what comfort and warmth! And Maggie is in a deep sleep next to the bed.

Here some images from the road taken in the laset few days:

And a view of the horses on their field a few nights ago:


And another nice place to be. We shared the field with ten sheep and their lambs: